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Chefs at Hotel Café Royal put to the test as diners supply ingredients

Adventurous foodies can now put chefs at a London hotel to the test by challenging them to create a menu out of four random ingredients.

Executive chef Andrew Turner and chef de cuisine Armand Sablon have launched the Bring Your Own Ingredient experience in Hotel Café Royal’s Ten Room restaurant.

Guests are asked to bring four items or fewer to the Piccadilly hotel’s kitchens where they will be greeted with a glass of champagne and a selection of canapés.

The chefs then discuss the menu and talk through sourcing and preparation tips for the foods before guests are seated for their meal.

The Evening Standard challenged Turner to create a menu from four items. In order to fully test the team’s culinary skills, we asked them to use cheese strings, beetroot, salmon fillets and chocolate Hobnobs.

Turner said diners have brought along a wide variety of ingredients, including crème eggs, Wotsits and wafer-thin ham.

But he thought the concept would also be used by Londoners wanting to learn how to cook foods they did not know much about.

He said: “The idea came about as an alternative to a chef’s table or cooking class.

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“We invite people to bring in ingredients they have grown or caught to prepare, discuss quality points and cooking techniques etc. We share our passion for products, seasonality and our experience of cooking in an informal environment.

“Sometimes our guests would like to see if we have the experience as alchemists to turn something like Wotsits into a gourmet experience — believe me that we wouldn’t if we couldn’t.”

Turner and his team are given 48 hours’ notice of the items guests will bring in order to plan the menu and create signed recipes cards for one of the dishes,  which diners can take away with them.

The bespoke service, which is being launched following a trial period, costs £70 per person and is available for lunch and dinner for tables of four or more people.

Lizzie Edmond’s experience

Cheese string terrine

Masking the true flavours: Andrew Turner and his team do wonders with cheese strings in this terrine (Picture: Nigel Howard)The ingredients I would nominate for my bespoke dinner had been a topic of conversation among friends and colleagues for weeks.

Everything from bone marrow to extra strong mints was suggested — but my dining partner Nicola and I eventually settled on the eccentric mix of cheese strings, beetroot, salmon and chocolate Hobnobs.

Executive chef Andrew Turner and his team created a menu of cheese string terrine — which had cheese strings running through both the layered vegetable dish and in a light Asian-inspired salad placed on top —followed by heritage beetroot and Morteau sausage salad.

Our main was a poached salmon with seasonal Jersey Royals and basil hollandaise, complete with breaded salmon bon-bons, followed by chocolate Hobnob and strawberry cheesecake served with a rich drink made from Hotel Café Royal’s Profile 66 chocolate.

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With the less savoury items, Turner’s trick was to mask their true taste at all costs. He tried submerging the cheese strings — the “trickiest” item — in dry ice before settling on using them in a dish with distinctive flavours to trick the palate into thinking they weren’t there.

Turner and chef de cuisine Armand Sablon made breaded fish bon-bons while serving up a delicious piece of poached wild salmon.  As well as being put to use in the dessert, the Hobnobs were used to make one of the bread rolls served with our cheese string terrine.

All four dishes were delicious, but it was the experience of learning in a kitchen with top chefs that made the evening special. That and knowing you can make something fancy out of cheese strings.


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